This is a comprehensive guide we’ve lovingly put together in order to really help you tackle, handle, manage, or whichever way you psych yourself up to deal with negative reviews. We'll cover all the best tips and advice, the reality of review removal, and the best way for you to respond to your loyal customers feedback.
When negative reviews occur
A long time ago just thinking about negative reviews left me cringing and ducking for cover from the internet. Negative reviews online can drum up fear and palpitations in small-business owners who don’t have so much of a ‘buffer’ as large enterprises. Can you feel the dread building?
We’ve all had bad experiences from time to time and the truth is, we will continue to have them. However, these daily inconveniences and experiences that leave us narked are real, authentic, and constantly occurring because we are all human, and mistakes happen.
Stop the stress. There are two things to remember when it comes to negative reviews:
1: You’re going to receive negative reviews, no matter how good you are.
2: Negative reviews are not the end of the world, so stop worrying about them.
In this guide we’ll talk you through:
The truth of negative reviews
First things first, all businesses receive negative reviews. It’s a fact of life that your product or service isn't going to benefit everyone. You can mitigate these bad reviews by supplying great services, great products, and great information. The more information you give your customers before they hand over their hard-earned cash, the better they will know whether your product or service is a match for them.
Giving people the opportunity to be heard can have a huge impact on the reputation of your company, so how do you douse those haters? That's not what this post is about, nor how you should perceive negative reviews. No, this post isn’t about preventing negative reviews, because I’m going to assume you’re already doing everything you can to avoid them.
We’re here to talk about what happens when you get one, how to embrace it, and actually how those reviews can work in your favour. Now that’s out the way and you know you’re not alone fighting an uphill battle, lets get on to the good bits.
An opportunity in disguise
What’s important to remember before hitting the abandon ship button is that a negative review is not the end of the world. In fact, with the right approach, which we will walk you through in this blog, having some negative reviews will actually help your business build trust.
A negative review is an opportunity in disguise for you to resolve the issue and come out shining, by turning that negative into a positive, both figuratively and literally. We'll start with 'figuratively', then get to 'literally' later on.
The two hats of bad reviews:
The first hat takes a customer service/improvement shape. Quite simply, any negative reviews you receive you can make your aspirational friend by taking on board problems your customers are having, trying to resolve them, and ultimately try to do better. Criticism is the key to improvement. If someone’s legitimately having a problem, it's most likely others are as well.
Rather than sweeping any negativity towards your company under the carpet, use this voice to address an issue, offer resolution, and make an unhappy customer happy. If ignored, complaints are only likely to stack up leaving the reputation of your business deeper in the gutter than if you had owned up to your mistakes, and made them right. This hat demonstrates how your business values its customer base, to keep them coming back to you time and time again.
The second hat takes more of a psychological shape, a negative review can actually show the credibility of the reviews you are collecting, with 52% of buyers saying they trust a product more if they have a few negative reviews. You can please some of the people, some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people, all of the time. If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is.
That’s not to say your business isn’t tip top with 4 or 5 stars 99% of the time, but those 1% of bad reviews allow your customers to pop on hat no.2, and asses the truth of what they’re reading. A whopping 95% of consumers suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t actually see bad scores. Overall, negative reviews display a variety of experiences, lending credit to your transparency as a company.
Don't fret if you have 100% across the board. Congratulations! Have you managed to rectify any negative experiences? If so, maybe showcase those solutions on your page somewhere, really emphasising your great customer service. If this isn't the case and everyone simply loves you so far, it is likely that at some point you will experience a negative review, so keep reading.
The 14 steps
So without further ado, here is our advice on not how to delete, nor hide negative reviews, but how to handle your negative reviews head on, and come out the other side stronger.
1) Reading your first (or 10th) negative review
It’s a negative review. It’s about your business, the one you work your fingers to the bone building up. And someone has come along and personally insulted you and now you feel like packing it all in. Whether you’re new to this game, or a well seasoned veteran, don’t take it personally. Never take a bad review to heart. They’re probably not blaming you personally (even if they say they are). Taking negative feedback personally might lead to anger, and might also lead to a response from you that you’d later regret. Which leads us on to...
2) A moment to breathe
Don’t immediately respond. Anger and online review responses should never mix, so you should step away from the keyboard for an hour or so, or until you’ve got all the facts together about the incident. The calmer you are in your response, the easier it will be to appease the customer. If you can’t appease them, then the value of responding is that potentially future customers may be reading; you can let them know how you deal with mistakes.
Take your moment to breathe, but don’t take a vacation. You need to consider your timing. Giving customers the opportunity to contact you is great, but if they have to wait over a week - even after 48 hours is pushing it - that's no good.
95% of unhappy customers will return if you resolve their issue quickly. If you leave it too long they are going to feel ignored and annoyed, perhaps pushing them to leave their feedback or search elsewhere. So let the anger or upset subside, then get cracking.
3) Private before public
When you’re ready to respond, your first step should be privately. Reach out to the customer in a personal email or message if you’re able. In doing so, you should ensure that you:
-Thank them for their business -Let them know you appreciate their feedback -Address their concerns individually -Assure them you’ll put procedures in place to mitigate similar issues in the future
4) Own your mistake
In the last point, make sure you apologise where necessary. This lets the customer know that you take their issues seriously. You've apologised for where you got it wrong, and you can then assure them you’ll make changes in the future to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
There will be circumstances which are out of your control, such as late deliveries, but this could be an opportunity to look into another delivery company with better on-time statistics.
5) State your goal
Reiterate your vision for the business so potential customers can see what goals you are trying to achieve. In your response, try and explain the reason for the issue, don’t make up excuses, but simply explain why the issue arose and what measures you have put in place to minimise the chance of this happening again. A grand 63% of people would actually pay up to 15% more if they’re assured a better experience in the future!
6) Sending a personal touch
Make your customers feel valued. You may believe you truly do value your customers, but this is actually the rule that is most frequently broken. Nothing frustrates a customer more than reading a canned irrelevant response. Are you really that sorry?
If you send your customer pre-generated, template responses, they are not going to feel heard or valued. Personal replies are key to customer service success. Being personal makes your customer feel appreciated and can turn an unhappy customer into a brand advocate.
Importantly, approaching your customers in a personable manner and not like an automaton will remind them that in fact yes, you are human too. Messages over the internet give room for less accountability, therefore people feel less responsible and deem hate spewing or abuse as more acceptable.
If you talk to them as a person, they are more likely to respond as the decent person they truly are, and respect is gained on both fronts.
7) Replying publicly
You’ve approached the customer privately, you should now post your public response containing the same points raised above. Apologise, be personable, appreciate their feedback, aim to do better. If you’ve got a tonne of great reviews online, people may automatically gravitate to the bad reviews just to see how you respond to customer service issues.
By showing that you care and actively respond to your negative reviews, you’ll be a lot more approachable in your future customers’ eyes.
8) Connect directly
You’ve already reached out personally, you’ve gone public too. But a great way to end your public response is by offering to discuss the matter further. Something along the lines of ‘I have emailed you my contact details if you would like to discuss this matter further.” Once again you are being sincere, and keeping it directly related to them and their needs.
9) Asking for a redo
Remember we said you can 'literally' turn a negative into a positive? Once you’ve resolved any issues the customer has, it never hurts to ask them to revise their review on the platform in question. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Most people would be happy to do so if their complaint is resolved, because by doing so you’re validating their concerns and providing a solution.
This won't always happen, and you will get customers who wont respond to any of your attempts to rectify the situation. They wanted to vent their anger, and move on. This is fine. Don't forget a few negative reviews shows transparency, and if you've responded the best you can, customers will still see that.
10) Refrain from the ‘C’ word
As a rule, never mention compensation in a reply as this will only cause you issues with other customers. Generally when a company mentions compensation in a response they open themselves up to a floodgate of issues. If you feel compelled to offer compensation, make sure you do this via a private email or call.
11) Asking for fake reviews to be removed
Any review that comes in that is clearly fake or spam should be removed by the review site hosting them. On Reviews.io, you can do this by flagging the review to us, and our moderation team will investigate it. If fake reviews do slip through the net, reassuringly 70% of consumers say they find it easy to spot a fake review, allowing their judgement to be neutralised. So fakers, we're on to you, you're not a slick as you once thought.
However, as is the essence of this entire post, that in no way means deleting or removing negative reviews. In the interest of being an honest, open, and trusted source of reviews, it’s not possible to have verified reviews removed, positive or negative. So that's the reality, you can't remove reviews as and when suits you. However, all businesses can respond to verified reviews posted on our platform, which we wholeheartedly promote.
NOTE: If your interest only lies in removing any negative posts aimed at your company, leaving only positive reviews, then you have missed the entire concept of this post.
Read no further, because you won’t find any tips or hacks to delete reviews. You may need to rethink this strategy, because as we have stated, negative reviews actually benefit your business in a multitude of ways.
12) Always reply
Consumers are actually much more impressed to read a negative review that has a well-considered reply, appreciating that a manager has taken the time to read the review and respond to the specific issue. The importance of businesses responding to reviews has increased to 30%, with 3% expecting businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. Although the latter is a small minority, the salience of responding overall is clearly on the rise, emphasising consumer needs.
We recommend responding to all negative reviews and approximately 40% of positive reviews. Beware of responding to ALL your reviews though. Research has found that responding to more than 40% resulted in a decrease in revenue, with more than an 85% response rate negatively affecting revenue than if you didn't respond at all.
13) Truly listen to your feedback
Actually listen. This is a big one, because we can all grit our teeth and thank someone for their feedback when they've just torn us to shreds, but as we stated above, it has to be sincere. Suck it up, and actually take on board what your customers have to say, their advice is free.
Not only that, as we are aware, if consumers are assured a better experience in the future, they're willing to spend 11% more next time. If you listen and look at what people think about your company, it gives you the greatest opportunity for you to grow and create a reputation that people will respect, as well as potentially increase revenue.
14) Learn and improve
The reason I said at the beginning of this article that negative reviews aren’t the end of the world, is because every negative review should be seen as an opportunity to improve.
Don’t forget, even if you feel that a negative review is unjustified, your public response can actually improve your reputation with your customers. Leaving a negative review “on the table” gives the impression that you don’t care or are unaware of the issue. Shockingly, 63% say that a business has never responded to their review, and in the knowledge that review response importance is on the rise, that's only going to have a negative impact on your business.
We’d encourage you to respond to all your negative reviews as suggested above, with a comment, wherever they appear online. Even reviews that are out of your control, such as late deliveries as mentioned right at the start allow you to refine and improve your services. What makes you stand out from your competitors is your service, so make it the best it can be.
Reviews in general
With that all out the way, it really isn’t as bad as it all seems, is it? There’s quite a lot to take on board when it comes to negative reviews, but if you turn them into a positive, you’ll take all your reviews in your stride. It’s not just the timing and content of your response that’s important, so don’t forget to do the following:
Be Easy to contact:
If you are easy to contact and give your customers the opportunity to contact you about issues they may have, customers are less likely to publish negative feedback on social media and contact you directly instead.
With today's technology there is no excuse, gone are the days of writing a complaint in the form of a letter. E-mail, Telephone, Online customer service chats; the more opportunities you give the customer to contact you across a variety of mediums, the more confidence they will have in you as a business and the less likely they are to panic if things do wrong.
These are some pretty solid rules to follow when receiving, dealing with, and responding to negative reviews, so once you’ve got a great response system locked down, make sure you follow best practice and keep any promises you make.
Overall, giving your customers a platform where they can leave feedback easily is great publicity and builds trust for your potential customers. If you invite people to leave feedback of their experience with you in a convenient way, it sparks positive feedback. As leaving a review is becoming increasingly easier, more positive reviews are actually being left.
Even so, it’s pretty widely accepted that most of your happy customers won’t tell anyone about their experience without being prompted, while any unhappy customers are likely to actively tell their friends, and perhaps everyone else online.
This is exactly why it’s important to implement and maintain a review collection strategy for your business, because 77% are willing to leave a review if simply asked. Not only that, those who you ask via email invitations leave less biased, more positive reviews, cementing greater trust in your business due to well-informed purchase decisions. You can read more here about asking your customers for reviews.
It’s also important to try and maintain a consistent reputation across multiple review platforms, whether they be a licensed Google review partner such as Reviews.io, or one of the many social media platforms such as Facebook. You can collect reviews on multiple channels with Reviews.io, which really helps you manage all your reviews and your reputation across the web, in one place. Click the link at the top of this page to sign up for a free demo and we’ll run you through it.
Negative reviews are part and parcel of doing business both online and offline. Even the world’s best-run businesses will do something wrong at some point, which may lead to a customer leaving an unhappy review. Savvy consumers will rarely trust a business that has hundreds of purely 5-star reviews, with 68% of consumers trusting reviews more when they see both positive and negative reviews.
Negative reviews are not a nightmare, and are not to be shied away from. They are actually your friend and allow you to put on hat no.1, and your customer to put on hat no.2 and together create solutions that mutually benefit one another. So, turn yours – and your customers – frowns upside-down and embrace negative reviews.